The Makura: An Original Buckwheat Hull Pillow
If a complete Japanese futon set is your goal, then you’re going to need a pillow (or “makura” as they’re called in Japan). The makura has two distinct features that separate it from Western pillows: size and composition. These Japanese pillows may appear unusually small when compared to standard U.S. sizes, almost like a travel or decorative / throw pillow. Also, rather than foam, feathers, or synthetic fibers, authentic makuras are filled with buckwheat hulls.
Although modern medicine has only recently caught on to the advantages of buckwheat hull pillows, the Japanese have been enjoying their benefits for centuries. Health care professionals will frequently recommend a makura to help alleviate neck pain and tension headaches. They evenly distribute the weight of your head, allowing the supporting neck muscles to fully relax. Hulls can often be added or removed to suit your preference, leaving the only reasonable gripe that some people find them noisy. Check out the pros and cons to determine whether or not one of these pillows is a good fit for you.
- Alleviates neck pain and tension headaches
- Organic and hypoallergenic
- Hulls can be added / removed to adjust firmness
- Traditionally smaller than standard U.S. pillows
- Can be “noisier” than foam or down
The Best Japanese Buckwheat Hull Pillows
When deciding upon which pillow to buy, you should consider the quality of materials used and only purchase from companies that you trust. Imported buckwheat pillows must meet certain standards due to government regulations. This can include roasting the hulls to eliminate potential contaminants as well as spraying on questionable fire retardant chemicals, ultimately creating a lower quality and less desirable product than one made in your country. Each of the following pillows are:
- Filled with 100% organic U.S. grown buckwheat hulls
- Handmade in the United States
- Guaranteed to be chemical free
J-Life’s Soba Gara Makura
For those who are looking to buy (or already own) a J-Life shikibuton and / or kakebuton, this is probably the best way to go. Guaranteed to match and with over 30 pillow cover designs to choose from, J-Life’s soba gara makura (buckwheat hull pillow) adds the finishing touch to your bedding set. Though the pillow fabric is imported from Japan, all buckwheat hulls are grown and the pillows are assembled in the U.S.
Beans72’s Organic Buckwheat Pillows
Beans72 is proof that you shouldn’t judge a business by its name. After her move from Tokyo to the U.S. in 1999, Yumiko Oshima found herself disappointed by the lack of availability when it came to authentic Japanese buckwheat pillows — so she decided to start making her own. Over a decade later she now oversees the process, ensuring Beans72 continues to make what she calls “Rolls Royce” quality pillows.
Most of their products can be found on their Amazon storefront, including additional hulls to replace or add more stuffing to your pillow, so feel free to skip their personal website and head straight there.
ComfyComfy’s Comfy Sleep Buckwheat Pillow
And one more time for good measure — comfy. To be fair, that is a good description of ComfyComfy’s pillows. Maggie (the owner) is originally from Brunei and grew up sleeping on buckwheat pillows. After receiving positive feedback from her family and friends she decided to start her own business. Years later the ComfyComfy operation has grown but still maintains a primary focus on quality.